Socio-Economic Impact of COVID-19 in Kenya

Content Manager • 15 July 2020

      On 31st December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, Peoples’ Republic of China. This was subsequently confirmed as an outbreak of a new type of coronavirus, 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCOV) by the National Health Commission, Peoples’ Republic of China and the WHO. As of 2nd April 2020, the Coronavirus Worldometer shows that the number of infected cases globally was 935,957 with recorded 47,245 deaths, and 194,298 recovered patients2. In Kenya, the number of infected cases is eighty one (81) with one (1) death and three (3) recovered patients.

      COVID-19 being a novel virus and as the outbreak continues to evolve, research is ongoing to better understand its dynamics of transmission and improve case management among others. COVID-19 has potential to cause many infections through human-to-human transmission and lead to a significant number of severe cases that could overwhelm the health care system, and a substantial number of deaths. However, if persons infected are detected in a timely manner and rigorous infection control measures applied, the likelihood of sustained human-to-human transmission can be reduced.

      Public health experts have consistently warned that the novel coronavirus outbreak presents a unique public health threat to the African continent. Gilbert, Pullano, Pinotti, et al. (2020) use two indicators to determine the capacity of countries to detect and respond to cases: preparedness, using the WHO International Health Regulations Monitoring and Evaluation Framework; and vulnerability, using the Infectious Disease Vulnerability Index. Based on their analysis, Egypt, Algeria, and South Africa had the highest importation risk, and a moderate to high capacity to respond to outbreaks. Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Angola, Tanzania, Ghana, and Kenya had moderate risk with variable capacity and high vulnerability.

      Furthermore, it is widely thought the economic fallout for the continent is likely to be severe and long-lasting. Many of its countries have a high dependence on commodity exports to China, relatively weak sovereign balance sheets, high debt burdens and volatile currencies, among numerous other external fragilities. The disease’s negative impact on the world economy has already translated into a decline in demand for the primary products that Africa exports, such as oil from Angola and Nigeria and rare minerals from Democratic Republic of the Congo will drop by 1.4% from 3.2% to 1.8 % as a result of the coronavirus. Among other things, the decline is due to disruption of global supply chains and a crash in oil prices that will cost up to US$65 billion in export revenues. Furthermore, tourism has been adversely affected, as international travellers stay home, hurting the economies of South Africa and Kenya, among others. Investors, confronted with a litany of unknowns about the disease and its consequences, are fleeing from emerging markets, at least for the time being.

      This policy brief assesses the possible vulnerabilities and impacts on Kenya of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it is too early to predict the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Kenyan economy, this policy brief uses an adapted World Bank conceptual and methodological framework which was used to analyse the economic impact of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa 2014-2016 to identify the pathways of the CODIV-19 pandemic impact on the economy, poverty and inequality, women and girls, refugees, internal displaced persons (IDPs) and migrants, education, food security and nutrition and governance and security. There has already been adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the several sectors of the economy in particular; tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and trade putting people’s jobs and livelihoods at risk. The policy brief argues that considering the adverse socio-economic impacts of the COVID- 19 pandemic on the health and livelihoods of families and communities, in particular the most vulnerable groups which will regress progress across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), policymakers, should adopt a whole of government and society approach to lessen the adverse impacts.


For more information, please see the full brief attached below. 

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Photo credit: UNDP Kenya


The views expressed in the blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the SDG Philanthropy Platform. The SDG Philanthropy Platform is a global initiative that connects philanthropy with knowledge and networks that can deepen collaboration, leverage resources and sustain impact, driving SDG delivery within national development planning. It is led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS), and supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Oak Foundation, Brach Family Charitable Foundation, and many others.